The monkey is finally off the back of Hastings Rugby and Sports after winning the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's Maddison Trophy Premier championship final at McLean Park in Napier on Saturday.
The three tries to one 22-16 victory over Taradale, in which all the tries were scored by loose forwards, gave Hastings R&S its first win in a Maddison Trophy final, although the club had previously claimed a share of the title after a draw with Clive in 1999.
It was just the fourth Maddison Trophy final for the club, which has been a semifinalist 13 times in the 25 seasons since making the top 4 in 1996, the first season of its formation in a merger of the former Hastings HSOB and Celtic-Hastings clubs.
The club has made the semifinals in each of the last four seasons, and after knocking Taradale out of the running in last year's semifinal was beaten 43-24 by Napier Old Boys Marist in last year's trophy decider, a dramatic extra time decider after it had been tied 24-all at the end of the regulation 80 minutes.
Hastings was a slowish starter in the shortened 2020 season, losing 17-18 to OBM in the second round on June 27, but became real title contenders with a 35-10 win over mid-competition favourites Taradale five weeks later.
There was no need for extra time on Saturday, although there was never more in it than the six points of the eventual winning margin, and it was 10-all at halftime.
Taradale was more positive and after sustained early pressure from the forwards, Magpies flyhalf Caleb Makene kicked an early penalty goal to take a 3-0 early lead.
Hastings bounced back with some individual brilliance from Hurricanes and Magpies midfielder Danny Toala, putting HRS back on attack and leading to the first of the two tries by loose forward and ultimate Man of the Match Fale Matamata, converted by halfback Connor McLeod, to put HRS in front 7-3.
The Taradale lineout functioned well, dominated by Josh Eden-Whaitari, a 40m drive led to a fantastic forward try to flanker Iakapo Mapu, converted by Makene. A penalty to McLeod tied the scores at the break.
An early penalty to Makene early in the second half had Taradale leading 13-10 and Taradale began looking ominous as they took control of the breakdown and the battle up front.
Sustained pressure from the Taradale forwards with Joe Apikatoa, Angleo Mufana and Eden-Whatiri to the fore resulted in a further Makene penalty and at 16-10 momentum had certainly swung in Taradale way.
HRS showed why they have been the best team across the season as their forward pack went to work and finally grabbed ascendancy through the work of Magpies front rower Jason Long, massive lock Danya Tulou and Matamata.
A try to Jessie Lesa-Sipaia after a great lineout drive by industrious loosie Emil Crichton put them back in reach of Taradale and then like all good teams they struck again immediately with another great line out drive and Matamata's second try, and the game's final points from the boot of McLead, who finished the 11-week season as top scorer with 117pts
Hastings backs coach Bevan Lynch said afterwards: "There are a lot of painful memories and '99 is a long time between drinks - most of the squad weren't even out of nappies when we last won (the trophy) but stoked for the guys, they have worked extremely hard and the result is well deserved."
Lynch who has been involved since 2004 had seen a big change this year and was quick to credit head coach Sione Cherrington-Kite who he said "stripped it all back and provided real clarity".
He had special mention Matamata as "best player on the park", young lock Emil Crichton, in his first season out of the Hastings Boys' High School 1st XV, and former St Johns College and Otago halfback McLeod.
Relived yet very satisfied co-coach Andrew Hui commented: "Our defence this year has been outstanding and we have simply got better and better as the season has gone on. We have focused on the process and the result has come. I couldn't be happier right now."
"Gutted," was how Taradale co-coach Boyd Carswell described it. "We were up by six and had control of the game and one poor exit and HRS were in. But that's finals football for you.. well done to HRS. They learnt from last year and as they say sometimes you have to lose one to win one."
While crediting his entire squad for the way they way have performed this year, Carswell was quick to praise his young front row, noting its average age for the last-30 combo of Josh Combs, Jayden Walker and Jacob Ward.
There was also a successful last stages reversal in the Premier Reserve Jack Swain Cup final, won by homeground club Napier OBM with a four tries each 29-26 win over previously unbeaten Maraenui.
Coming into the final with a record of six wins, a draw and three losses behind them this season, OBM was up 8-6 at halftime, but was down 15-26 with two players yellow-carded out for 10 minutes towards the end of the third quarter.
But there were two converted tries in the 72nd and 77th minutes tries for OBM to claim the victory over a fellow Napier club which had also been beaten 12 months earlier in the Senior Division 2 final.
Maraenui was playing in the Reserve grade only to fill a gap and overcome travel issues which would have arisen had it remained this season in an otherwise all CHB and Dannevirke Senior 2 grade.
History was made soon afterwards at Park Island when newest club Bridge Pa, in only its second season in Hawke's Bay Senior grades rugby, beat neighbour Flaxmere 27-23 in the Division 3 Ron Parker Memorial Cup final. Napier club Technical won the Colts grade with a three tries to two win 24-18 win in the sides' Pat Ryan Memorial Trophy final win at McLean Park.
The win enabled Technical to win the HBRU's Black and White Black and White Shield. Southern Hawke's Bay club Aotea is on the cusp of completing a major reversal as favourite to win the Senior 2 Arthur Bowman Cup final on homeground Rugby Park in Dannevirke next Saturday, against Waipukurau side Central.
Finishing last in the grade last season, Aotea have won all 11 games this season, including the 53-19 semifinal win over Waipawa Country United in Dannevirke at the weekend. Central made their way to the final with a 28-24 win over 2019 champion Otane at Otane Domain.